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Texas House passes bill to criminalize TSA patdowns

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A bill that would criminalize the infamous “pat-down” at airport security checkpoints has made its way to the Texas Senate after clearing a key vote in the House on Friday evening.

When the bill was introduced, it was seen as a longshot even in the Republican-dominated Texas House.

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That seemed to change, however, after a former Miss America beauty pagent winner claimed she was “molested” by Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) workers at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

In the wake of her accusation, a near super-majority of Texas House representatives rushed to add their names to the co-sponsor list, virtually guaranteeing its passage.

The bill would amend a Texas statute pertaining to “the offensive touching of persons,” extending it to security personnel who conduct a search “without probable cause.”

That’s actually the exact wording used in the Constitution in the section outlining prohibitions on unreasonable search and seizure. The legal standard for a lawful search is probable cause: a requirement that law enforcement must meet before most judges will issue search warrants.

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The bill specifies that “offensive” touching which takes place as “part of a search performed to grant access to a publicly accessible building or form of transportation” would be treated as a state jail felony.

It defines an offender as someone who “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly: (A) Searches another person without probable cause to believe the person committed an offense; and (B) Touches the anus, sexual organ, or breasts of the other person, including touching through clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person.”

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Texas is not alone in the effort: lawmakers in several other states, like New HampshireNew Jersey and Hawaii, were also considering similar legislation to restrict the TSA in other ways, including: prohibiting the use of x-ray machines that capture images of passengers by looking underneath their clothes; or restricting the ways agents can touch passengers.

The TSA did not appear moved, noting that even if the Texas Senate passes the bill and Gov. Rick Perry signs it into law, it will remain purely symbolic.

“We wish we lived in a world where you could just walk on a plane with no security screening, but that just isn’t the case unfortunately,” the TSA wrote on its blog. “Aviation security agencies worldwide have been using pat-downs long before TSA was created to prevent dangerous items from getting onto airplanes. The pat-down is a highly effective tool to resolve certain alarms and keep these dangerous items off of planes that could cause catastrophic damage.”

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“We’re not against national defense; we’re not against security,” Texas Rep. David Simpson (R) told Raw Story in March. “We just don’t want to do it at the expense of our liberties. The terrorists want to take away our liberties and here we have our very own government terrorizing innocent travelers. Traveling is not a criminal act.”

This video is from Austin, Texas ABC News affiliate KVUE.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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